Carla Shafer

AUGUST POETRY POSTCARD FESTIVAL 2011, Carla Shafer. 2011. self-published, 32 pages,

My dear friend Carla Shafer is a force to be reckoned with. In addition to being a fine poet (and coordinating multiple poetry events in her hometown of Bellingham, Washington),  she’s a political activist for peace and justice, and a fierce advocate for indigenous peoples, as well as our beleaguered planet.  No matter how bleak the headlines, she never despairs, but always sees a way through. She inspires me every day.

I have several of Carla’s self-published chapbooks of poems and I’ve been after her to pull together a collection to submit to presses. Here is one poem, written nine summers ago. (To learn more about the August Poetry Postcard Festival, visit Paul Nelson’s

Beauty and My Story Return

To see for the first time (with your own eyes),
the steady up and down flux of wings
by a stilled butterfly and realize what it means–
that it is sucking nectar through its proboscis
in rhythm, feeding from the pool below the petals.
When you compare that to something you have watched
all your life–noisy bees hovering over borage
and lavender–you continue to wonder, follow the
threads of your own unanswered questions
step again to the drum, apply pressure
from your fingers wing-like, tap in steady motions
repeat the throbbing of the earth, buried in your heart
somewhere between the buzz and the silence.

–Carla Shafer

Poetry, Anyone?

directionsAlong with a whole bunch of other poets and writers, I will be reading at Colophon Cafe in Fairhaven/Bellingham tonight, visiting the Chuckanut Sandstone Writers. Open Mike sign-up is at 6:30; reading commences at 6:50. You should join us!

And if you watch the Events tab, I’ll soon be announcing a whole line-up of readings in November, both close to home and in Portland, Oregon. (If you know of a great venue or open mike there, let me know!)

But why should anyone wish to read to a live audience?

When I was a poetry student at the University of Washington, I was lucky enough to be invited to read at the Castalia Reading Series, hosted by the one-and-only Nelson Bentley. I read every quarter, and sometimes more often, and I found a huge difference between writing for myself, secretly, or at least privately, and writing for others. You can experience this to some extent simply by sharing your work with a small group, and by sending your work out to journals. But performing your work aloud, to an audience? That’s magic.

It’s partly hearing the words aloud, which of course you can do in your room all by your lonesome. Except, it’s partly knowing that other people are hearing your words — knowing, as you prepare, that they will hear your work. When it’s your turn to get up there, you notice what your audience responds to, what sort of trills and riffs resonate. Sound matters, and (I’ve found) something happens to the images, too. You see what makes people sit up and pay attention. Then, all of that information has an effect on revisions, and on future poems.  For me, it was a long process of becoming more and more my best writing self.

Listening to other readers is a whole ‘nother part of the experience, of course. All of it extremely scary (at least the first time) and extremely valuable. (Take notes!)

Chuckanut Sandstone, Wednesday, Oct. 9, 7 p.m.

Wednesday, Oct. 9, at 7 p.m. I’ll be reading poems at Chuckanut Sandstone Writer’s Theater. Visit their blog to learn more.

Chuckanut Sandstone Writers Theater ~ Open Mic ~ monthly

Everyone is welcome to read original writings. ~ Open mic (All styles and topics are welcome.) Bellingham, WA at the Firehouse Cafe, 14th and Harris (Bellingham, near Fairhaven)~ Open mic (All styles and topics are welcome.) Every second Wednesday.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013- 7:00 PM
Featured poet: Bethany Reid will read for the first 30 minutes. New book: Sparrow